The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is mandated by Congress to ensure that the nuclear industry is safe. Instead, the NRC routinely puts the nuclear industry's financial needs ahead of public safety. Beyond Nuclear has called for Congressional investigation of this ineffective lapdog agency that needlessly gambles with American lives to protect nuclear industry profits.



"NRC Officials Face Hostile Anti-Indian Point Crowd"

NRC file photo of Indian Point on the banks of the Hudson RiverThe Daily Dobbs Ferry reports that anti-nuclear protestors took over an NRC meeting about Indian Point nuclear power plant with chants of "Close Indian Point," leaving NRC officials "rattled." The Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, Hudson Riverkeeper, Citizens Awareness Network, Greenpeace, Hudson Sloop Clearwater, and others all urged concerned citizens to take part in the meeting, including issuing a media release calling for a big public turnout.


" Some fear U.S. nuclear agency is playing 'regulatory roulette' "

CNN reports that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's enforcement of safety and environmental protection regulations is inconsistent across the U.S. CNN cited NRC's inconsistency on tritium leaks into groundwater, as at Exelon Braidwood nuclear plant in Illinois and its Oyster Creek nuclear plant in New Jersey, as examples. Beyond Nuclear's Paul Gunter devoted a section each to those very nuclear plants -- as well as to Entergy's Vermont Yankee, Palisades (MI), and Indian Point (NY) nuclear power plants -- in his report Leak First, Fix Later, about tritium and other radioactivity leaks from underground and buried pipes, as well from high-level radioactive waste storage pools, at U.S. nuclear power plants.

CNN also quoted some witty things Union of Concerned Scientist's David Lochbaum had to say about this issue: " 'NRC's almost acting like they're waiting till somebody dies till they enforce the regulation. Tombstone regulation -- that's too high a price to pay by Americans'...Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer and former instructor for the NRC, claims the commission is playing what he calls 'regulatory roulette,' sanctioning plant owners and demanding a clean-up in some cases, such as the Braidwood spill, but not in other instances, like Oyster Creek. 'The NRC can't have a 'Wheel of Misfortune' that decides when it acts and when it doesn't. The NRC needs to consistently enforce its regulations so that all Americans living in all states are protected,' Lochbaum said."

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates made that exact same point to the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) on May 26th. Speaking the issue of radioactive containment breaches in the U.S., Arnie testified to the ACRS: 

"...In 2010 when I met with you as a candidate for an opening on the ACRS, we discussed NPSH [net positive suction head] and its relation to containment integrity. I noted then that the Browns Ferry units had not been allowed the NPSH credit, yet ACRS granted the NPSH credit to Vermont Yankee five years earlier. It is illogical that that the people of Alabama have more accident protection than the people of Vermont."

So much for "Equal Protection Under Law"!

Arnie's written testimony is posted online as the final three pages of the ACRS transcript; Arnie's reading of his written testimony, with an introduction by Maggie Gundersen, is posted at the Fairewinds Associates homepage.


"The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2010: A Brighter Spotlight Needed"

David Lochbaum (pictured at left, alongside one of his quotes), director of the Nuclear Safety Project in the Union of Concerned Scientists' Global Security Program, unveiled this report on March 11 at a UCS media event on Capitol Hill -- ironically, the very day the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe began. UCS also preparded an overview, executive summary, and media release. The report documents 14 "near misses" in 2010, having to do with operating reactor and radioactive waste storage safety risks, as well as security risks shrouded in secrecy. Delving deeper into the "near misses" of 2010, Lochbaum focuses in on three utter failures by NRC to live up to its mandate to protect public health and safety. But he also cites three instances where NRC did its job -- and urges those to serve as the model for NRC to live up to its mission in 2011. Lochbaum concluded his executive summary by stating: "That plant owners could have avoided nearly all 14 near-misses in 2010 had they corrected known deficiencies in a timely manner suggests that our luck at nuclear roulette may someday run out." Certainly, that has proven to be the case at Fukushima Dai-Ichi in Japan.


"U.S. Nuclear Regulator Lets Industry Help with the Fine Print"

The infamous Davis-Besse "red photo" of boric acid crystal and rust "lava" flowing off the severely corroded reactor lid, in NRC's possession long before the hole-in-the-head fiasco was revealed to the publicAs part of its ongoing "Nuclear Crisis" series in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, investigative journalist John Sullivan with ProPublica has cited the NRC's complicity with FirstEnergy at Davis-Besse as the poster child for industry influence over the supposed safety regulator. Beyond Nuclear, in coalition with Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio, has challenged Davis-Besse's proposal for a 20 year license extension. In his article, Sullivan also describes the Nuclear Energy Institute's influence over NRC on the critical safety issue of license extensions. Since the year 2000, NRC has rubberstamped 66 of 66 nuclear utility applications for 20 year license extensions; 16 additional reactors, including Davis-Besse (as well as Seabrook in New Hampshire, which Beyond Nuclear is also challenging), stand poised for NRC rubberstamped license extensions. This, despite the fact that NRC's Office of Inspector General has busted the agency staff for "cutting and pasting" entire sections of nuclear utility assessments on license extension risks directly into NRC safety evaluation reports and environmental impact statements, then calling the analyses "independent." In addition, NRC OIG busted NRC staff for destroying working documents which led to decisions to approve license extensions once the rubberstamp had been completed.


NRC's rogue behavior called out by ProPublica

NRC Office of Public Affairs director Eliot BrennerProPublica editor Stephen Engelberg, in an "Editor's Note on Our Investigation Into Fire Risks at Nuclear Power Plants," wrote the following:

"...Last September, Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Eliot Brenner sent an email in response to our written questions. It said the 'fire safety program leadership' had asked him 'to relay their conviction that the time devoted to ProPublica's two years of questions has taken staff away from performing mission critical safety activities on behalf of the public.'

In my more than three decades of covering the federal government, I have never seen such a response to legitimate questions about a crucial issue."

Eliot Brenner, before joining NRC as its director of the Office of Public Affairs, was Vice President Dick Cheney's communications director. Of course, Cheney's office led the "Energy Task Force Report" that promoted a "nuclear power renaissance" -- at taxpayer financial risk -- in May, 2001.

Mr. Engelberg, and ProPublica's investigative journalist John Sullivan, were facing what Beyond Nuclear and concerned citizen groups at the grassroots level have experienced for decades -- the rogue behavior and obscurity of the NRC, which is supposedly mandated to protect public health, safety, security, the environment, and the common defense from the radiological and other risks of the nuclear power industry. More often than not, however, NRC does the bidding of the very companies it is supposed to regulate. Corporate profits and construction schedules seem to top NRC's priority list. NRC's lack of transparency has persisted, despite President Barack Obama's call for full transparency and accountability within his administration on his very first day in office. However, NRC is wont to remind critics that it is an "independent agency." Apparently, this includes independence from President Obama's commitment to transparency.

Mr. Engelberg concluded his "Editor's Note" by encouraging "elected officials, and political leaders of the Obama administration to read our story and Ms. Shanahan's [a companion piece in the Center for Public Integrity's iwatch news] to judge whether the NRC is adequately addressing fire safety."